Making his first appearance on Chapo Trap House last week, Michael Moore referred to Matt Christman and Virgil Texas as his “babies.” (Amber Frost, Felix Biederman and Will Menaker were absent).
Moore was not wrong in claiming patrimony.
Those of us old enough to remember Moore’s firing from Mother Jones magazine by the same elite liberal cast now smearing Bernie Sanders, Moore’s classic films beginning with Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine, not to mention his highly censored series TV Nation will recognize a shared genotype.
That there is a key difference between the dirtbag left 1.0 represented by Moore and Chapo version 2.0 is revealed most conspicuously in the following exchange.
MM: President Obama, whom I love, came to Flint during the election year. He stood in front of people and drank the Flint water telling them that it was OK. It wasn’t OK. And we know that it wasn’t: There was no way to get water in that high school. The water had been turned off a year and a half earlier. One of the aides brought that water from Air Force One.
Virgil Texas: For the record, I would not still love this man knowing that.
MM: Well, I say that, because it’s hard for me because I’m a little bit older than you guys and so I lived through a different time. In 1968, the Thursday before Palm Sunday, I’m walking out of my catholic church on this Thursday night, the dads had gone to warm up the cars, turned on the radio and got out of the car and shouted at all of us getting out of church “They just shot Martin Luther King!” And a cheer went up from amongst the people coming out of mass.
Now, I’m an eighth grader. And that image was so seared into my head to this day that I would live to see a black man voted president of the United States, just that alone was so stunning and reduced me to tears on that election night.
I’m closer to MM’s age but I’m on team Chapo here. As those who read it will know, one of the main functions of this blog has been to highlight the abject cynicism of the Obama presidency in deploying race as a bludgeon, equating protest against his administration’s policies with racism directed at Obama.
Moore was among many leftists who capitulated, thereby playing a role in extending of the neoliberal agenda long after its intellectual and political bankruptcy had been exposed.
That Moore is aware of this becomes apparent when he goes on to note that he “was critical for the whole eight years” of Obama’s administration.
For example, when GM went bankrupt and the government took it over-it now owned it. What an opportunity to say “we’re in charge now and we’re not in the business of building cars, we’re going to turn this back but not until some changes are made. Change no. 1, the internal combustion engine is killing this planet. So we’re not going to build those anymore and what Detroit is going to be known for is building clean transportation for the 21st century. We’re going to build Bullet Trains, we’re going to build light rail, we’re going to build a bus system which works and we’re going to wean ourselves off the automobile. What if he had done that? Where would we be? Instead he just gave them the car company back and they kept screwing the workers.
So why didn’t Obama listen to Moore?
The reason ought to be obvious to everyone if not to Moore himself. Obama could count on Moore’s unconditional “love” for Obama conquering all. In particular, Obama knew that Moore’s opposition would only go so far and would not extend to, for example, his calling for protests by an immiserated midwest workforce against his promotion of TPP, his giveaways to the banks and his failure to make good on his promise to the unions to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).
While he never directly says so, Moore was probably concerned that these would run amok, unleashing exactly the kind of race based animus against Obama that “seared” him decades before.
Now in a position to help mobilize and even unleash the forces of opposition, his instinct to protect the first African American president kicked in. Moore’s personal trauma ultimately served to benefit neoliberal elites, his experience with racism deployed as a weapon against the left.
That Moore is still besotted with Obama became apparent only a few days after his Chapo appearance where he touted Bernie’s campaign, as he has been doing for some months.
As it turns out that Bernie is not his only favorite in the race. Competing for his affections is yet another “smooth talking Harvard lawyer with vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics” who also happens to have the last name Obama, namely, the former first lady Michelle.
This was not the first time that one of Moore’s public utterances caused the hearts of many of his fans to sink.
We should be disappointed but not surprised. Only a few radicals are able to maintain the principles and commitments of their youth into their sunset years.
In other words, the dirtbag left 1.0 is dead. Long live dirtbag left 2.0.